The Oak and the Stream

In this year's Celebrity Big Brother we've witnessed a number of the contests being condemned for being "two-faced," and for "sitting on the face." These concepts are often employed as a means to criticize, but is it possible that they could have other, more positive, uses?

If we look at the images that lie behind these criticisms we see that they're concerned with the the same idea. To be two-faced is to fail to be one-faced; in other words, it is to fail to present a consistent face, to stick to an image. So the two-faced person may present a certain face in this situation (and with these people), yet may present an entirely different face in that situation (with those people). The criticism seems to take for granted that to have one face is the favoured way to be, the "right" way.

When we are one-faced we are faithful to a single image, a single way of being. The one-face is a monotheistic mode, borne from the notion that to be one way - and to be certain of this way - is the ideal way to be. In Celebrity Big Brother perhaps the most stringent advocate of the mono-face mode is Vinnie Jones.

Jones represents the image of the Great Oak; rooted firmly into the earth, it would take a truly catastrophic event to move the Oak; its thick bark protects it from the elements; its trunk does not bend or sway in even the strongest of winds; the Oak can be leaned upon for means of support, and provides a sturdy shelter for those who seek it.

Jones's language and behaviours give us clues to his nature. In a conversation with Alex (a sapling to Jones' Oak, swaying this way and that, but yet to become immune to the breeze) he urges him to transcend, to become something (to put down firmer roots). Supported by Steven (a classic American Hardwood) he criticizes Alex for being "a bit of everything" whilst being "none of them." For Jones, to be a bit of everything is to be nothing at all. He sees no value in being in-between; to be in-between is to be ineffectual.

Jones is sure of who he is and of his opinions. Like the Oak, he is firmly rooted and immovable. Yet, in Jones we see an Oak that detests anything that does not mirror its own sturdy nature. He is the one to most frequently bring down the label of "two-faced" upon the heads of his fellow housemates, and it is he who seems most irked when they "sit on the fence" or "go between camps." He is bothered by ways of being that present contrary images to his own.

To be two-faced, to sit on the fence and to go between camps all bring to mind images of fluidity and flexibility; as with Alex, the two-faced person - the fence-sitter, the go-betweener - suggests a tree that sways, that gives. They also bring to mind the image of water or oil, its tendency to slip and slide and to evade solid form. Indeed, the two-faced person is often seen as slippery - assuming one form in this instance and another in that - and as such they cannot be relied upon (leaned upon) or trusted (to maintain a singular form).

When - like Jones - we attribute a negative value to fluid images, we risk overlooking the positive value that they can bring us. If we view two-faced from another angle, then we may see it as having two languages. Thus, to sit on the fence, or to go between camps is to carry messages, from one Oak to another. The Oak - so proud of its strength, its surety - does not realise that because it is so firmly rooted it may have lost the ability to move, and thus to communicate with other equally well rooted neighbours. If it is too enamoured by its own image, it may not realise how much it needs a go-between, to bring news from afar and to carry its own communications.

And so the go-between becomes the stream, weaving through the forest and carrying messages within its water. When we are two-faced we become like the stream, extending our repertoire - our languages - so we are able to speak to more people. In our two-faced mode we are able to communicate more widely than in our one-faced mode. In fact, we could probably go further and describe the stream as multi-faced, because it does not limit its faces to only two. It wants to communicate with as many things as it can - it feels the importance of this duty for the harmony of the forest - and so it adopts as many faces as it is able, doing its best to open lines of communication with everything it meets.

The Oak has much to be proud of, and within the eco-system his role is an important one. Of course, we are not Oaks, and we needn't be as firmly rooted. But like the Oak, our danger is in holding our own way of being in such high esteem that we forget how vital other modes are to our eco-system, to the harmony of our society. If the unshifting element of our character - our mono-face - takes its mask too literally then we will have difficulty in communicating with those who contradict this mask; our opposites. In times like these we would be well advised to remember the stream and its multi-faceted nature; because it does not literalize any of its faces, its masks, the stream has no opposites, no enemies.

The forest is our eco-system, our environment and society. But its multiplicities - all of its different forms of life, including both Oak and stream - exist as potential within each of us. All play their role, and all must be remembered, and respected.

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Walk a Straight Line

Still Waters

A Story

A man marries a woman and they settle down. They buy a house together, decorate and furnish it. Eventually they have a child together. All seems relatively well, until the man’s behaviour begins to change. Perhaps he begins to drink more, or drinks with less control. He gets drunk and stays out, gets into trouble. He becomes more distant from his wife, and from the child. Maybe he has an affair. Perhaps he does some or many of all of the little troublesome, disruptive things that lie outwith and in-between these archetypal scenarios.

And for his actions he faces recriminations. “Why are you doing this?” he is asked. And perhaps he cannot come up with an answer, and he feels bad; but he does not know if he feels bad because he did those things, or because he cannot say why he did them. And so our hero becomes a villain. His name becomes muddied within the community, his image tarnished.

And he sees the pain that he is causing, and he feels the judgements that are cast upon him. And, whilst he may not show it, somewhere within him he is hurt. He does not like being the one to bring about all this pain, and he does not like the sense of shame that has been hung around his neck. And so he makes efforts to change his ways, to do less of these things that have caused pain. He pares himself down, becomes “good”.

People begin to notice a change in him. In becoming good he seems to have lost something. He seems dulled, muted. Neutered. At certain points of the day he can be caught staring into the distance, empty-eyed. And people wonder, “What is wrong with him?” “What happened to him?”

An Analysis

We started with a fantasy, one that was presumably shared by both parties; a fantasy of “everything is alright.” An image of a still lake, of balance and harmony. But for some reason this fantasy lost its truth for our hero, and he began to look for new images, to tell new stories.

His abandoning of the initial fantasy – the shared fantasy – caused pain; not only to his beloved, but to those in the community who were also invested in it. They could not understand his new stories, the sense of them; and, unfortunately for him, neither could he. All he “knew” was that they were in some way necessary. To keep his own private lake still he seemed to have to cast stones upon the communal waters. But he knew that these stones were not thrown out of malice, just to see the splashes and disruption that they would cause. There was an unconscious logic in his actions, a balance was being preserved.

Unfortunately for our hero his lack of insight into his own behaviour – his lack of language, of concepts; his inability to explain himself, to make himself known – meant that it became illegitimate. Lacking an advocate, it was forced underground, into the depths, where it could no longer disrupt the fantasy of “everything is alright”.

In forcing his daimons underground he was able to once again to become “good”, the communal lake restored to stillness. But he did not realise that the daimons do not disappear; they came to him with an important message to deliver, and it is their duty to make sure they are heard. Forced into the darkness, they still sing and dance, only he can no longer see them, or hear their song.

Perhaps our hero even begins to think of himself as “bad”; after all, he can see the consequences of his behaviour, and he is not blind to its effects. And so he is forced into a corner, given an ultimatum; to deny his daimons, and to force them underground, or to remain the “villain,” and to live with the label of “bad.” Yet, an understanding of his actions – of their sense – would make the choice irrelevant.

Because he could not defend himself, he was forced into an act of self-amputation; an act that – seen from a certain angle – is perhaps the most horrific of this whole tale.

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Chain Link

[There is a phenomena] which seems to be almost universal when man commits the error of purposive thinking and disregards the systemic nature of the world with which he must deal. This phenomena is called by the psychologists "projection."

The man, after all, has acted according to what he thought was common sense and now he finds himself in a mess. He does not quite know what caused the mess and he feels that what has happened is somehow unfair.

He still does not see himself as part of a system in which the mess exists, and he either blames the rest of the system or he blames himself. In my parable Adam combines two sorts of nonsense: the notion "I have sinned" and the notion "God is vengeful."

If you look at the real situations in our world where the systemic nature of the world has been ignored in favour of purpose or common sense, you will find a rather similar reaction. President Johnson is, no doubt, fully aware that he has a mess on his hands, not only in Vietnam but in other parts of the national and international ecosystems; and I am sure that from where he sits it appears that he followed his purposes with common sense and that the mess must be due either to the wickedness of others or to his own sin or to come combination of these, according to his temperament.

I have already suggested that no simple remedy to what I called the Romano-Palestinian problem can be achieved by backing the Romans against the Palestinians or vice versa. The problem is systemic and the solution must surely depend upon realizing this fact.

Similarly, in the field of psychiatry, the family is a cybernetic system of the sort which I am discussing and usually when systemic pathology occurs, the members blame each other, or sometimes themselves.

But the truth of the matter is that both these alternatives are fundamentally arrogant. Either alternative assumes that the individual human being has total power over the system of which he or she is a part.

Even within the individual human being, control is limited. We can in some degree set ourselves to learn even such abstract characteristics as arrogance or humility, but we are not by any means the captain of our souls.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.442-4

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Hitting Bottom

There is a Power greater than the self.

A favourable relationship with this Power is discovered through "hitting bottom" and "surrender."

It is possible [...] that "bottom" is reached many times by any given individual; that "bottom" is a spell of panic which provides a favorable moment for change, but not a moment at which change is inevitable.

Friends and relatives and even therapists may pull the alcoholic out of his panic, either with drugs or reassurance, so that he "recovers" and goes back to his "pride" and alcoholism - only to hit a more disastrous "bottom" at some later time, when he will again be ripe for a change.

The attempt to change the alcoholic in a period between such moments of panic is unlikely to succeed.

The panic of the alcoholic who has hit bottom is the panic of the man who thought he had control over a vehicle but suddenly finds that the vehicle can run away with him. Suddenly, pressure on what he knows is the brake seems to make the vehicle go faster. It is the panic of discovering that it (the system, self plus vehicle) is bigger than he is.

The alcoholic works on the discomforts of sobriety to a threshold point at which he has bankrupted the epistemology of "self-control."

[There is a double bind] founded upon the alcoholic's dichotomous epistemology of mind versus body [[...] "the obsession of the mind that compels us to drink and the allergy of the body that condemns us to go mad or die."]. He is forced by these words back and back to point at which only an involuntary change in deep unconscious epistemology - a spiritual experience - will make the lethal description irrelevant.

If a man achieves or suffers change in premises which are deeply embedded in his mind, he will surely find that the results of that change will ramify throughout his whole universe. Such changes we may well call "epistemological."

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.329-32, 336

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If it were works, springing from motives and deliberate intention, that led to the blissful state, then, however we may turn it, virtue would always be only a prudent, methodical, far-seeing egoism.

But the faith to which the Christian Church promises salvation is this: that as through the fall of the first man we all partake of sin, and are subject to death and perdition, we are also all saved through grace and by the divine mediator taking upon himself our awful guilt, and this indeed entirely without any merit of our own (of the person).

For what can result from the intentional (motive-determined) action of the person, namely works, can never justify us, by its very nature, just because it is intentional action brought about by motives, and hence opus operatum.

Thus in this faith it is implied first of all that our state is originally and essentially an incurable one, and that we need deliverance from it; then that we ourselves belong essentially to evil, and are so firmly bound to it that our works according to law and precept, i.e., according to motives, can never satisfy justice or save us, but salvation is to be gained only through faith, in other words, through a changed way of knowledge. This faith can come only through grace, and hence as from without.

This means that salvation is something quite foreign to our person, and points to a denial and surrender of this very person being necessary for salvation.


Works, the observance of the law as such, can never justify, because they are always an action from motives.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.407

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Max: I think you're having a breakdown, require treatment.

Howard: This is not a psychotic episode. This is a cleansing moment of clarity. I am imbued, Max. I am imbued with some special spirit. It's not a religious feeling at all. It is a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing as if suddenly I had been plugged into some great electro-magnetic field.

I feel connected to all living things, to flowers, birds, to all the animals of the world and even to some great unseen living force, what I think the Hindus call prana.

It is not a breakdown. I have never felt more orderly in my life! It is a shattering and beautiful sensation! It is the exalted flow of the space-time continuum, save that it is spaceless and timeless and of such loveliness! I feel on the verge of some great ultimate truth. And you will not take me off the air for now or for any other spaceless time!

Dialogue from the film "Network"

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It is not ethical principles, however lofty, or creeds, however orthodox, that lay the foundations for the freedom and autonomy of the individual, but simply and solely the empirical awareness, the incontrovertible experience of an intensely personal, reciprocal relationship between man and an extramundane authority which acts as a counterpoise to the "world" and its "reason".

Just as man, as a social being, cannot in the long run exist without a tie to the community, so the individual will never find the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual and moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors.

The individual who is not anchored in God can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world. For this he needs the evidence of inner, transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass.

[C.G. Jung]
The Undiscovered Self, p.15, 16

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[Anonymous]

[...] anonymity is "the greatest symbol of self-sacrifice that we know."

It must be understood that anonymity means much more in AA thinking and theology than the mere protection of members from exposure and shame [...] the twelfth of the "Twelve Traditions" states that "anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."

To this we may add that anonymity is also a profound statement of the systemic relation, part-to-whole. Some systems theorists would go even further, because a major temptation for systems theory lies in the reification of theoretical concepts.

[...] the single purpose of AA is directed outward and is aimed at a noncompetitive relationship to the larger world. The variable to be maximized is a complementarity and is of the nature of "service" rather than dominance.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.333-5

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I must reduce myself to zero. So long as man does not by his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.

[Gandhi]
The Story of My Experiments With Truth, p.454


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If the sage refuses to be proud
Then people won't compete for his attention:

If the sage does not buy treasures
Then the people won't want to steal them:

If the sage governs with vision
Then his people won't go wrong.

So in his wisdom, he restrains himself:

- by not being greedy for food

- by not dominating the State

- by keeping himself healthy and fit.

The sage always makes sure
that the people don't know what he's done,
so they never want to take control -
and are never driven by ambition.

He keeps them in truth like this acting invisibly.

You see, if there is nothing to fight for
then there is nothing that can break the flow.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter Three

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Whole without a Centre

According to the research, three key bodily systems - the neurological system, the endocrine system, and the immune system - function independently yet work harmoniously together. There is no central system which integrates these three systems. Each of these functions within its own integration, and, in addition, they function well as a whole though not integrated by a central control.

Taking a hint from the above, I think that the human psyche also should be seen as a "supersystem." I have repeatedly discussed different levels of consciousness while also indicating that even logically conflicting things will coexist in the mind of a human being. Indeed, that coexistence has value.

I am inclined to think that out human mind maintains integration in each of the different levels of consciousness. In addition, as a whole it functions as a supersystem without a center. In short, I think that the psyche as a whole, when it is healthy and functioning well, does not need to have an integrative center.

Some might say that, if a system as a whole is functioning well, you call it "integration." For integration, we tend to think that a principle or rule exists which should be central and controlling. I think that things - including human beings - work well beyond the center or principle which man creates.

I described my great trouble being caught between Eastern and Western cultures. While in such suffering, I believed in the integration of the two and talked about it easily. But, after trying hard many times, I gradually came to know that it is, in fact, impossible to "integrate" them. It even seems dangerous to attempt quick integration, as I have realized that people who attempt it tend to ignore things which are "inconvenient."

So it seems likely that a new science would not try to develop a system of knowledge featuring simple, logical integration [...] If we are to develop this new science of the whole, we must open ourselves to imaginative ways of thinking and perceiving and summon up our most determined efforts.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.140-1

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Stay with the Image

[...] the point is that consciousness floats; a psychic fluidum, as Mesmer might have called it, wrapping around and all through the analytical session. It doesn't belong to either party. Sometimes the patient has an insight, and another moment the analyst is conscious by simply being reticent, and another moment the consciousness is really in the image.

For instance, a black snake comes in a dream, a great big black snake, and you can spend a whole hour with this black snake talking about the devouring mother, talking about the anxiety, talking about the repressed sexuality, talking about natural mind, all those interpretive moves that people make, and what is left, what is vitally important, is what that snake is doing, this crawling huge black snake walking into your life [...]

[...] and the moment you've defined the snake, interpreted it, you've lost the snake, you've stopped it, and then the person leaves the hour with a concept about my repressed sexuality or my cold black passions or my mother or whatever it is, and you've lost the snake.

The task of analysis is to keep the snake there, the black snake, and there are various ways for keeping the black snake [...] see, the black snake's no longer necessary the moment it's been interpreted, and you don't need your dreams any more because they've been interpreted.

But I think you need them all the time, you need that very image you had during the night. For example, a policeman, chasing you down the street [...] you need that image, because that image keeps you in imaginative possibility [...] if you say, "Oh, my guilt complex is loose again and is chasing me down the street," it's a different feeling, because you've taken up the unknown policeman into your ego system of what you know, your guilt.

You've absorbed the unknown into the known (made the unconscious conscious) and nothing, absolutely nothing has happened, nothing. You're really safe from that policeman, and you can go to sleep again.

[James Hillman]
A Blue Fire, p.74

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The content of the symbol is not easily replaceable by content one already knows. Its manifestation is its most appropriate expression. There is no way to replace it.

[Jung] disliked for anyone to forget this point and just interpret dreams according to ready-made theories or known ideas. His warning, "Do anything you like, only don't try to understand [dreams]," reflects his attitude well.

With this in mind, one can respond to dreams in an understanding direction and a nonunderstanding direction [...] If we transpose this stance into the Buddhist alaya-vijnana mode, we might say that its functioning in the Mind-Birth/Death is the understanding dream direction, while its functioning in Mind-Suchness is the nonunderstanding dream direction.

[...] we would appreciate the importance of both understanding a dream and nonunderstanding a dream.

Or we might spend our entire effort on interpretation, while also remembering nevertheless that that is not the primary importance of the dream.

Amplification [...] is an effective method. Similarly, using the contents of amplification also has two directions, understanding and nonunderstanding. We cannot forget that both are important. Then, to push a bit further, by the amplification of nonunderstanding, we open ourselves to discovery.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.134-5

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Amplification.

Elaboration and clarification of a dream-image by means of directed association and of parallels from the humane sciences (symbology, mythology, mysticism, folklore, history of religion, ethnology, etc.)

Since the unconscious, as the result of its spatio-temporal relativity, possesses better sources of information than the conscious mind - which has only sense perceptions available to it - we are dependent for our myth of life after death upon the meagre hints of dreams and similar spontaneous revelations from the unconscious.

As I have already said, we cannot attribute to these allusions the value of knowledge, let alone proof. They can, however, serve as suitable bases for mythic amplifications; they give the probing intellect the raw material which is indispensable for its vitality.

Cut off the intermediary world of mythic imagination, and the mind falls prey to doctrinaire rigidities. On the other hand, too much traffic with these germs of myth is dangerous for weak and suggestible minds, for they are led to mistake vague intimations for substantial knowledge, and to hypostatise mere phantasms.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.348, 411

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He had told Richard that his Hopi friend was involved in a very vast and complicated struggle that was taking place on many levels. The old man's cancer was only a small part of this whole struggle, and he explained that things like this needed to be seen in a wider context.

It is always necessary to be aware of and consider the entire situation. It is always necessary to be cognizant of what the spirit wants. It is a mistake to think that the only way to help a sick man is to take away the illness.

[Doug Boyd]
Rolling Thunder, p.202

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Digging Deeper

[...] sometimes I feel that clients' complaints are similar to koans, at least for the therapist. One of the famous koans is: "Bringing both hands together quickly produces a clap. What is the sound with one hand?" It is obvious to anyone that you don't get the answer by rational thinking.

It seems as though a koan is given to create an opportunity to allow the whole person to relate to deeper consciousness, instead of relying on the superficial consciousness.

Let's think about this, using the example of a symptom that a client complains about. It is not possible to resolve this by rational thinking. Then the therapist asks for the client's free associations or for the client to focus on dreams. This means giving up looking for resolution from superficial consciousness and searching for the answer from one's depths. Both koan and symptom function similarly here.

However, in some mild case of hysteria, the client's complex or conflict in the unconscious becomes readily conscious and thus comes to resolution. If we look at this according to the koan and the Buddhist ideas, the client was given the koan (the symptom) and abandoned it in the middle, not reaching the depths of the psyche but turning back to the other direction, helped by the therapist.

That is to say, the therapist's effort actually took away the rare opportunity for a satori experience.

I like to think this way at times: when a client suffers a symptom, it's meaningful to resolve it - but also not to resolve it. It all depends on following the person's process of individuation. I cannot help but become very cautious in a psychotherapy session.

Of course, the conscious appeal at the beginning is to resolve the symptom quickly, so we cannot forget about that. But I am facing the total being of the client and need to be cautious. My attitude needs to be flexible. Otherwise, I don't see the way the individuation process wants to go.

One's consciousness has to be as mobile as possible in order to move freely between the surface and the depths. Then one can see direction to go [...]

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.131-2

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Interdisciplinary Teams

Only in times of war or national emergencies do we call upon and assemble interdisciplinary teams to help find workable solutions to varying social problems.

If we apply the same efforts of scientific mobilization as we do during a war, large-scale beneficial effects can be achieved in a relatively short time. This could readily be accomplished by utilizing many of our universities, training facilities, and staff to best determine possible alternative methods to solving these problems.

[...] An interdisciplinary team of systems engineers, computer programmers, architects, city planners, sociologists, psychologists, educators and the like would also be needed [...]

[Jacque Fresco]
'The Future and Beyond', see here

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Separations and Bridges

It is the attempt to separate intellect from emotion that is monstrous, and I suggest that it is equally monstrous - and dangerous - to attempt to separate the external mind from the internal. Or to separate mind from body.

Blake noted that "A tear is an intellectual thing," and Pascal asserted that "The heart has its reasons of which the reason knows nothing." We need not be put off by the fact that the reasonings of the heart (or of the hypothalamus) are accompanied by sensations of joy or grief.

These computations are concerned with matters which are vital to mammals, namely, matters of relationship, by which I mean love, hate, respect, dependency, spectatorship, performance, dominance, and so on.

These are central to the life of any mammal and I see no objection to calling these computations "thought," though certainly the units of relational computation are different from the units which we use to compute about isolable things.

But there are bridges between the one sort of thought and the other, and it seems to me that the artists and poets are specifically concerned with these bridges. It is not that art is the expression of the unconscious, but rather that it is concerned with the relation between the levels of mental process.

From a work of art it may be possible to analyze out some unconscious thoughts of the artist, but I believe that, for example, Freud's analysis of Leonardo's Virgin on the Knees of St. Anne precisely misses the point of the whole exercise. Artistic skill is the combining of many levels of mind - unconscious, conscious, and external - to make a statement of their combination. It is not a matter of expressing a single level.

Similarly, Isadora Duncan, when she said, "If I could say it, I would not have to dance it," was talking nonsense, because her dance was about combinations of saying and moving.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.470

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Old Thoughts for New

If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you.

And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races and the brutes and vegetables.

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or, simply, of overpopulation and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

If I am right, the whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured [...] If we continue to operate on the premises that were fashionable in the precybernetic era, and which were especially underlined and strengthened during the Industrial Revolution, which seemed to validate the Darwinian unit of survival, we may have [little time] before the logical reductio ad absurdum of our old positions destroys us.

The most important task today is, perhaps, to learn to think in the new way.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.468

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The notion that all these fragments is separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today.

Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it. Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are caught up in it.

[David Bohm]
Wholeness and the Implicate Order

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A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ... The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self ...

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.

[Albert Einstein]

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In the traditional society, the most respected person was the lama. In the modern sector, it is the engineer.

[..] The world views of the lama and the engineer are very different. The old beliefs were based on a description of reality that emphasized the unity or dependent origination of all life, whereas the new scientific perspective emphasizes its separateness.

It seems to say that we stand apart - outside the rest of creation. And to gain a greater understanding of the way nature works, we simply have to split matter into smaller and smaller fragments and examine the various pieces in isolation.

The shift from lama to engineer represents a shift from ethical values that encourage an empathetic and compassionate relationship with all that lives toward a value-free "objectivity" that has no ethical foundation.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.108-9

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Firm Foundations
Carry Each Other

The Larger Mind

[...] the very meaning of "survival" becomes different when we stop talking about the survival of something bounded by the skin and start to think of the survival of the system of ideas in a circuit.

The contents of the skin are randomized at death and the pathways within the skin are randomized. But the ideas, under further transformation, may go on out in the world in books or works of art. Socrates as a bioenergetic individual is dead. But much of him still lives as a component on the contemporary ecology of ideas.

The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a subsystem. This larger Mind is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by "God," but it is still immanent in the total interconnected social system and planetary ecology.

Freudian psychology expanded the concept of mind inwards to include the whole communication system within the body - the automatic, the habitual, and the vast range of unconscious process. What I am saying expands mind outwards. And both of these changes reduce the scope of the conscious self. A certain humility becomes appropriate, tempered by the dignity or joy of being a part of something much bigger. A part - if you will - of God.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.467-8

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Consciousness operates in the same way as medicine in its sampling of the events and processes of the body and of what goes on in the total mind.

It is organized in terms of purpose. It is a short-cut device to enable you to get quickly at what you want; not to act with maximum wisdom in order to live, but to follow the shortest logical or causal path to get what you next want, which may be dinner; it may be a Beethoven sonata; it may be sex. Above all, it may be money or power.

[With the capabilities of modern technology] Conscious purpose is now empowered to upset the balances of the body, of society, and of the biological world around us. A pathology - a loss of balance - is threatened.

On the one hand, we have the systemic nature of the individual human being, the systemic nature of the culture in which he lives, and the systemic nature of the biological, ecological system around him; and, on the other hand, the curious twist in the systemic nature of the individual man whereby consciousness is, almost of necessity, blinded to the systemic nature of the man himself.

Purposive consciousness pulls out, from the total mind, sequences which do not have the loop structure which is characteristic of the whole systemic structure. If you follow the "common sense" dictates of consciousness you become, effectively, greedy and unwise - again I use "wisdom" as a word for recognition of and guidance by a knowledge of the total systemic creature.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.439-40

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The world of consciousness is inevitably a world full of restrictions, of walls blocking the way. It is of necessity one sided, because of the nature of consciousness itself. No consciousness can harbour more than a very small number of simultaneous perceptions. All else must lie in shadow, with drawn from sight.

Any increase in the simultaneous contents immediately produces a dimming of consciousness, if not confusion to the point of disorientation.

Consciousness not only requires, but is of its very nature strictly limited to, the few and hence the distinct [...] We have to make do, so to speak, with a minimum of simultaneous perceptions and successions of images. Hence in wide areas possible perceptions are continuously excluded, and consciousness is always bound to the narrowest circle.

[...] everything subliminal holds within it the ever-present possibility of being perceived and represented in consciousness. The unconscious is an irrepresentable totality of all subliminal psychic factors, a "total vision" in potentia. It constitutes the total disposition from which consciousness singles out tiny fragments from time to time.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East ('Foreword to the Introduction to Zen Buddhism'), p.167-8

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The ordinary Balinese term for the period before the coming of the white man is "when the world was steady" (doegas goemine enteg)

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Bali: The Value System of a Steady State'), p.121

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A Tough Act to Follow

Pleroma & Creatura

[Jung] points out that there are two worlds. We might call them two worlds of explanation. He names them the pleroma and the creatura, these being Gnostic terms.

The pleroma is the world in which events are caused by forces and impacts and in which there are no "distinctions." Or, as I would say, no "differences."

In the creatura, effects are brought about precisely by difference.

In fact, this is the same old dichotomy between mind and substance.

We can study and describe the pleroma, but always the distinctions which we draw are attributed by us to the pleroma. The pleroma knows nothing of difference and distinction; it contains no "ideas" in the sense in which I am using the word.

When we study and describe the creatura, we must correctly identify those differences which are effective within it.

The creatura is thus the world seen as mind, wherever such a view is appropriate. And wherever this view is appropriate, there arises a species of complexity which is absent from pleromatic description: creatural description is always hierarchic.

[...] there are differences between differences. Every effective difference denotes a demarcation, a line of classification, and all classification is hierarchic. In other words, differences are themselves to be differentiated and classified.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.461-3

Map & Territory

the map is not the territory.

"What is it in the territory that gets onto the map?" We know the territory does not get into the map. That is the central point about which we here are all agreed. Now, if the territory were uniform, nothing would get onto the map except its boundaries, which are the points at which it ceases to be uniform against some larger matrix.

What gets onto the map, in fact, is difference, be it a difference in altitude, a difference in vegetation, a difference in population structure, difference in surface, or whatever. Differences are the things that get onto a map.

[...] You enter a world in which "effects" - amd I am not sure one should still use the same word - are brought about by differences. That is, they are brought about by the sort of "thing" that gets onto the map from the territory. This is difference.

I suggest to you, now, that the word "idea," in its most elementary sense, is synonymous with "difference." Kant, in the Critique of Judgment [...] argues that in a piece of chalk there are an infinite number of potential facts. The Ding an sich(thing in itself), the piece of chalk, can never enter into communication or mental process because of this infinitude. The sensory receptors cannot accept it; they filter it out. What they do is to select certain facts out of the piece of chalk, which then become, in modern terminology, information.

I suggest that Kant's statement can be modified to say that there is an infinite number of differences around and within the piece of chalk. There are differences between the chalk and the rest of the universe, between the chalk and the sun or the moon.

And within the piece of chalk, there is for every molecule an infinite number of differences between its location and the locations in which it might have been. Of this infinitude, we select a very limited number, which become information. In fact, what we mean by information - the elementary unit of information - is a difference which makes a difference [...]

What is on the paper map is a representation of what was in the retinal representation of the man who made the map; and as you push the question back, what you find is an infinite regress, an infinite series of maps. The territory never gets in at all. The territory is Ding an sich and you can't do anything with it. Always the process of representation will filter it out so that the mental world is only maps of maps of maps, ad infinitum. All "phenomena" are literally "appearances."

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.455, 457-61

Reverie

[...] eschewing the use of the language of the senses (the language of substitution: images or representations) [he] sought a way for the analyst to approximate the meditative-like stance (reverie) of the infant's mother - to shut out all stimuli from within the analyst (memory, desire, preconceptions, understanding) in order to be optimally receptive to the subverbal emanations of the emotional being-in-flux of the patient.

He frequently exhorted the analyst to abandon memory and desire as well as preconceptions and understanding, the derivatives of sensation, so as to avoid being misled by images or symbols that, though they represent the object, are not the object experientially.

Only then can the analyst, with much patience - the patience of tolerating uncertainty and doubt - be qualified to become the analysand, or more precisely, become the analysand's state of mind.

In this state of reverie, the analyst has thus become the container of the analysand's projected mental content (contained).

[James S. Grotstein]
A Beam of Intense Darkness: Wilfred Bion's Legacy to Psychoanalysis, p.47-8

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This, not That

Suppose there are the phenomena A, B, and C, and each of them is itself without any self-nature, yet they are all related. Consequently, the existence of A as "A" is determined by its relation to B and C and all other phenomena. Everything is related to everything; nothing can be considered apart from its relatedness to the whole.

Although A is without self-nature, still it is A because of its relationship to everything else. In short, the inner structure of A includes everything else in hidden or "powerless" form. And by such relationship A is A, not B or C.

The entire universe supports the existence of any single thing, and absolutely nothing exists as an individual particular by itself alone. All things continually and simultaneously manifest themselves together as a whole. The philosophy of the Hua-yen calls this ontological reality "Interdependent Origination."

As no "individual" can exist in itself alone, it exists by the support of everything other than itself.

Suppose there are entities A, B, and C, each differing from the other. Each in turn, according to Hua-yen, is constituted by an indefinite number of the same ontological elements, a, b, c, d, e, f, g, ..., even though A, B, and C differ. If we use semantic thinking, the signifier is always everything (a, b, c ...), whereas the significants differ, like A, B, C.

In order to explain this enigma, Hua-yen employs the aspects "powerful" and "powerless." "Powerful" designates the presence of a positive, manifest, self-asserting, and controlling element; "powerless" denotes the opposite: passive, seclusive, self-negating, and subservient. Among the infinite elements, one of them - a, l, or x, perhaps - becomes "powerful," while the rest of them are understood to be "powerless". Then, as A, L, or X, they are recognized in the daily world as different things [...] At any one moment, the powerful element is not necessarily the only one; and it changes in relation to the whole over time.

In our daily life, only the "powerful" element manifests, so we human beings cannot resist focusing on differences; that means not noticing the "powerless" elements, though they are essential to the depth-structure of A, for instance, and support its manifestation.

Suppose that "I," for example, consist of a, b, c ... an infinite number of elements; and, among them, factors b, f, and k are "powerful" elements to make "I" express "my" eachness. So, if I exert those powerful factors actively, I may cause my existence to stand out, and, by so doing, I may be able to control others.

But if I think it through a little more, then actually I may die without being aware of my other infinite "powerless" elements. But if I were to live my eachness fully, I would be receptive, reclusively waiting. Then, when my "powerless" elements became activated, I would discover an eachness that is different from what I had known about myself until then.

In short, I would appreciate with surprise the autonomous emergence of eachness. This has quite a different feeling from creating one's individual nature by one's own effort.

In individualism, it seems quite reasonable that one develops individuality by following one's own intentions. However, little possibility exists to develop in a direction unexpected from what one already knows about oneself, as I have explained in relation to the "powerless" elements. Such development is active and positive, to be sure, but you would have to say that it is restricted by the ego's judgment. In comparison, the Buddhist approach seems to be fulfilled if your path opens up in an unexpected direction.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.101-3, 109

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World of Phenomena/World of Principle

[The Garland Sutra] calls the world of ordinary life "the Dharmic World of Phenomena." Its condition is such as we ordinarily experience when there are two separate things, A and B. A has its own particular characteristics, as does B; A and B thus are clearly distinguished from one another, and there is no question of confusing the two. If the boundaries between phenomena are removed, however, we see the world differently.

This dissolution of boundaries is characteristic [...] of Buddhism in general and other Eastern philosophies. "The minute and infinite differences of actual existence instantly disappear in a vast space of nondiscrimination." This world [...] is called "the Dharmic World of Principle."

Here, the differences between objects disappear, and so self-nature is negated. This state Zen Buddhism calls "nothingness or emptiness" [...]. Such terms as "nothingness" and "emptiness" do not signify an empty world of no things, but rather a world that contains infinite possibilities for "being." "Emptiness" in the Dharmic World of Principle is pregnant with the dual meaning of nothingness and being.

[...] in order to have such "emptying" of existence [...] it is necessary to empty our ordinary consciousness, our "discriminating mind," which discriminates things one from another, always wanting to see the differences.

The world of phenomena embodies various kinds of discrimination. Each and every thing can be seen separately. But once a person acknowledges their Emptiness before or beneath such discrimination, one can see the world entirely nondiscriminately.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.99-101

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In Search of Feeling

Joshua Reynolds congratulated Oliver Goldsmith on 'feeling with exactness', and it is true that Goldsmith himself - a benevolentist rather than a sentimentalist - found something offensively theoreticist about the cult of feeling by which he was surrounded.

Only a man who has drawn his ideas from books, he thought, 'comes into the world with a heart melting at every fictitious distress'.

[Sentimentalism] is really a devious form of egoism, in which what you appear to bestow on another is secretly conferred on yourself.

The benevolentist hopes to stop having to feel the discomfort of pity by coming to the aid of the victim who occasions it; the sentimentalist is rather less eager to see off his agreeably sadomasochistic sensations by binding the other's wounds.

David Fordyce writes of the sentimentalist as finding 'a sort of pleasing anguish' in human misery, one which culminates in 'self-approving joy'[...] what the sentimentalist feels most keenly is the need to feel.

By and large, benevolence is a matter of laughter, while sentimentalism is a question of weeping. Sentimentalism is really a sympathy with one's own act of sympathising, a self-devouring affair in which the world is reduced to so much raw material for one's lust for sensation, or to so many occasions for exhibiting one's moral munificence*. You can thus exchange the objects of your affections from moment to moment, with scant regard for their use-value.

It is the mode of feeling appropriate to those who are not much practiced in emotion in everyday life, and who can thus manage only a theatrical, over-the-top version of it on the rare occasions when they are called upon to display it.

Rather as the child in the mirror phase is cajoled by an idealised reflection of itself, so the sentimentalist misrecognises an exalted image of himself in the act of coming to another's help.

The Yorick of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey, to adopt Byron's phrase about Keats, is forever frigging his own imagination, dreaming up scenes of distress in order to relish the orgasmic pleasures of pity.

[Terry Eagleton]
Trouble With Strangers: A Study of Ethics, p.26-8

*munificence: extremely liberal in giving; very generous